FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1632 (a) [to 1633]: The Great Famine- nearing an end?|
|Documented causes: drought + war|
|Documented effects: not just India; international trade disrupted|
|"The history of India : as told by its own historians. The Muhammadan period" (vol. VI, 1877)|
|p440: Kamgar Khan "Ma-asir-i Jahangiri": [Fourth year of the reign of Shah Jahan: 1631-2 AD]|
Khan Jahan, after he had risen in rebellion in the Dakhin, was soon overwhelmed by the defeat of his allies, as well as by the pestilence and famine which were ravaging the land. He therefore determined to take refuge with the Afghans of Peshawar ...
|Fernão de Queiros, "Historia da vida do veneravel irmaõ Pedro de Basto Coadjutor temporal da Companhia de Jesus ..." (1689)|
|p197: "No anno de 32. pera 33. ouve em todo este Industan huã fome geral, a que os naturaes chamáraõ o anno do ducôllu, que quer dizer, on anno da carestia & da fome; em que morréraõ muytos milhoens de pessoas miseraveys; & ainda dos que tinhaõ cabedal foy grande a mortandade, assim pela grande falta do mantiméto, come pela corrupçaõ dos ares, ocasionada de muyta secura, & tambem dos corpos morros, aonde faltava o cuydado de os queymar, ou enterrar."|
|Sir William Foster (ed.) "The English factories in India, 1630-1633 " (1910)|
|p218: John Skibbow and John Bangham at Mauritius, to the Company, 8 May 1632: News from Thomas Fuller, minister, who came from Gombroon [now Bandar Abbas, Iran] to Mauritius aboard a Dutch ship. "The famine increassing in India was followed with the pestellence, bothe which destroyed infinite nombers of people. At last it pleased God to send raine, butt in soe great aboundance that it drowned and carried awaie all the corne and other graine, etc., which that afflicted people had made hard shifte to sowe, and made such inundations as hathe nott been knowne or heard off in those partes. Soe that by theise meanes the townes and countreyes of Guzeratt are almost desolate and depoppulated. Amidst theise heavy afflictions itt pleased God to take awaie divers of your worthy and well deserving servants, amongst whom your President, Mr. Thomas Rastall, with two of his Councell, viz. Mr. James Bickford and Mr. Arthur Suffeild. A list of all we can heare of wee send you herewithe." ...|
|Public Record Office, "Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series. East Indies and Persia 1630-1634" (=vol. 8, 1892)|
|p241 (summary of letter from the surviving staff at Surat, 23 Jan 1632): "The great mortality fallen among them this year, and the little time it is since some of them were able to crawl about must serve as a plea for their present brevity …"|
[Report of events in neighbouring provinces] "This base King continues ungratefully his wars on Deccan, though the famine and their success has made him much the loser; and lately he has sent Aseph Khan upon them, against his will, with 40,000 or 50,000 horse, which will be to little purpose."
p246 (summary of letter from the fleet at Surat to the fleet which had gone to Persia, 26 Jan 1632): "The raging famine in India caused them, on the relation of Mr. Burley, to buy rice and gravances for their own use at Johanna, otherwise they had been destitute of all sorts of grain, being there was none to be got at Surat under 9 or 10 mamoths a maunde, and yet worth six or seven; therefore wish them to provide for both fleets and for the market as much as they have stowage for, if they can buy it at the same rate they did, viz., rice at 4 frossells or measures containing 100 lbs. per ryal; gravances, 7 measures per ryal; and, melia and paddy at the same rate. The melia and paddy will sell for good profit …"
p263 (summary of letter from the Great James at Mauritius, 8 May 1632): "The 19th last descried two sail, which they hoped had been the William and Blessing, but proved two Dutch ships s'Graven Hage and Trevier from Gombroon bound for Holland; by them had sorrowful advice of the state of India and Persia by Thomas Fuller, Minister. The famine in India was followed by pestilence, both which destroyed infinite numbers of people; at last God sent rain, but in so great abundance that it carried away all corn and other grain which that afflicted people had made hard shift to sow, and made such inundations as have not been heard of in those parts, so that the countries of Guzerat are almost depopulated ; amidst these heavy afflictions it pleased God to take away divers of their servants, and amongst them President Rastell, with James Bickford and Arthur Suffeylde, two of his Council; send a list of all they can hear of. Hear also bad news from Persia, as that the Company may expect no more than 400 bales of silk this year, which were ready at Gombroon; divers of the Company's servants there likewise lately deceased, and the silkworms perished, whereof Agent Heynes no doubt has given particular relation per his letters by these Dutch ships. Besides these disasters, understand that an English ship of 100 tons has been pillaging traders in the Red Sea, and taken great prizes; fear both the Company's estate and servants in India will pay dearly for it, besides the utter loss of their Red Sea trade, which stood on fair terms, and the damage the Turkey Company may suffer at Constantinople. The Commander is one Capt. Richard Quaile of Portsmouth, and report saith that he has his Majesty's commission and that it is the King's pinnace he is in; he has been at Surat, and is returned to the Red Sea; if he make prize of any of the Mogul's subjects, the Company's estate in India will be constrained to make good the damage, as was agreed by the articles made between the Guzerats and the President and Council in September 1624, …"
p277 (summary of letter from the new outgoing fleet, at Madagascar, 1 Aug 1632): "Found a Dutch ship Graven Hagh, Sir Willibrand, Commander, in company with the Dutch ship Derver but lost her by foul weather. Their fleet furnished her wants which were not small, the Dutch not having been sparing on like occasions to our shipping. They came from Persia, and met off Cape Jasques 25th Feb. our ships Mary, Exchange, William, and Blessing. Will determine the point of going to Gombroon about which the pinnace was sent, when they come to Johanna and peruse President Hopkinson's commission; if they concur not with the present state of India will embrace what shall appear best for the Company's profit. For the state of Surat and adjacent countries, Sir Willibrand gives a very pitiful relation, by two years famine and a following great plague, which have so swept away the inhabitants that there were not in divers places left to bury them. It has also pleased God to take away divers of the Company's chief merchants, also President Rastell, whose death will cause distraction in the Company's business. This miserable time at Surat, where they ground their chiefest designs, has much startled them but will leave nothing unattempted."
p283 (summary of letter from Masulipatam to Surat, 29 Aug 1632): ... "Our suit to this King met with opposition by Mirzarosuan Rendedare of this place, and Chancellor of this Kingdom, who with some other great men expects a bribe, without which nothing can be effected here except per force, which the Dutch make use of and are the better esteemed. Such is the miserable condition of this country whence justice and truth are fled long since, the poor exceedingly suffering the rich's tyranny without redress. ... Of late there has fallen such an abundance of rain as has not been known for years, through which they are in great expectation of a plentiful harvest, to the exceeding joy of all poor people by famine and mortality reduced now to a small number."
p284 (minutes of the Company's court in London, 31 Aug 1632): ... "The abuse of principals in factories in not permitting their assistants to be acquainted with their proceedings, utterly disliked by the Court as savouring of fraud; Mr. Ellam required again to write effectually to every factory that the books of accounts lie open to the perusal of assistants, and be made up and firmed by the merchants residing there every 14 days. ... Resolved, in regard of the present dearth in the Indies, the mortality of handicraftsmen, and the scarcity of commodity, to send little shipping to the northern parts, with a competent stock not only for this year's return but to provide for the next …"
|VOC, "Dagh-register Behouden Int Casteel Batavia ... Anno 1631-1634" (1898)|
|p87 (news received 10 Jul 1632): "De calamiteyt en armoede in Guseratte begonde te cesseeren dan de dierte continueerde alsnoch."|
p144 (news received 31 Jan 1633): "arriveert alhier vande Cust Choromondel het jacht Weesph … het groot opwaeter dat in Masilipatnam ende omleggende dorpen t'seedert eenigen tijt herrewaerts geweest ende pestilentiaele coortssen die aldaer geregneert hebben, de extraordonnarie drooghte ende geduijrugen reegen onse saecken omtrent Masilipatnam meede dapper verhindert heeft."
p146 (news received 31 Jan 1633 ctd.): "De Engelsche vermidts de groote dierte, coopen meede weijnich cleeden op, genouch te doen hebbende met het versorgen van proviesen voor den anijl, waer van zij op nieuws een goede parthije beslaegen hadden."
|Peter Mundy "The travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia, 1608-1667" (vol. 2, 1914)|
|p248: [24 Mar 1633: returning from Agra to Surat] Trees of any sort scarse All the way. A few poore Townes environed with hedges of thornes 8 or 9 foote high, heaped together to keepe out pilfringe Theeves. The Inhabitants generallie Rashpootes; this from Adgemeere hither. One Course farther we past by Ghora, a Towne now ruinated through the late famine that raged in Guzaratt, and it seemes reacheth hetherto, there beinge to bee seene aboundaunce of Skulls and bones of men and beasts. ... Of the Countrie all this way there is scarce one part of a hundred manured or put to use, the rest lyeing desert and waste, although verie good ground.|
p262: [20 Apr] ... (Seedpore) ... Heere is a Hindooe Dewra ruinated, It seemes by Moores envieing its beautie, adorned on the outside with the best Carved worke that I have seene in India, verie spacious and high, yett not a handbreadth from the foote to the topp but was Curiously wrought with the figures of menn and weomen etts. their fabulous stories. Now the said Edifice is defaced ... it is much worse within, servinge for a howse of Office [toilet], where they alsoe threw the Carcasses of those that dyed by famine. The Skulls and bones of them to bee seene.
p264: [25 Apr] Betwene this (Jurnucke) and Messana ... Two or three Townes in our way, heaps of deadmens bones and multitudes of them scattered heere and there, the sad trophees of the late mortall famine not yett extinguished.
[29 Apr] ... the Cittie Ahmudavad, the Metrapolitan of Guzaratt ... The Bazares and streets very large, faire and conformable, now halfe ruynated and dispeopled by the last famine. ...
p270: [19 May] ... (Brodera [Baroda]) ... Heere wee used to have a Factory, but now have none [Footnote states that it had been "discontinued ... in regard to the misery of the tymes"]. ...
[20 May] ... very wilde and woody ...
[21 May] This Towne (Saron) as yesterdayes dispeopled through famine, excepting some Banianes that sell graine for Travellers.
[25 May] ... came to Suratt to the English howse ... At my arrivall heere there were but few liveing of those I left heere att my departure, the rest dead with the Mortall Sicknesse that imedeatly followed the famine [lists 20 Company staff plus one other British male who had been present when he left for Agra; only 4 left alive]. The like tyme was never seene in India, There being Scarce one Man in all Suratt-howse [i.e. the English house] able to write or sett his hand to Paper (sometymes). Theis were only by Sicknesse, but the Famine it selfe swept away more then a Million of the Comon or poorer Sort. After which, the mortallitie succeeding did as much more amongst rich and poore. Weomen were seene to rost their Children; Men travelling in the way were laid hold of to be eaten, and haveing Cut away much of his flesh, hee was glad if hee could gett away and save his life, others killed outright and devoured. A man or woman noe sooner dead but they were Cutt in peeces to be eaten. Thus much by Common report (because I was not present). But att my returne I found the Countrie in a manner made desolate, scarce 1 left of 10, as by instance of the weavers, for whereas formerly they had brought them 30, 40 or 50 Corge [score (of pieces of cloth)] a day, they could now scarce gett 20 or 30 peeces; this in Baroach. Att Suratt none att all, and in Brodra noe Factorie att present. In my opinion it will hardly recover it former estate in 15, nay, in 20 yeares; I meane Guzaratt.
|Public Record Office, "Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series. East Indies and Persia 1630-1634" (=vol. 8, 1892)|
|p352 (letter from Surat by Christopher Reade, investigating a dispute between George Willoughby and the late Henry Sill, 23 Jan 1633): "Answer to the charges of private trade against Sill ... Sill ordered the return of his voyage to Gingilee should be in rice and other grain, Masulipatam and Armagon being so sorely oppressed with famine that the living were eating up the dead, and men durst scarcely travel in the country for fear they should be killed and eaten; he intended only to relieve Armagon, whence the poor weavers, painters, and dyers would have all fled, to the Company's great prejudice, but for expectation thereof. Should be but weak to persuade the Company that Sill sent this adventure without expectation of profit, but he never intended to forestall the Company's market at Armagon by buying up cloth for Pegu, Raccan, and Tenasserirn, which voyage could not be effected in less than 20 months, while Sill intended on the next ship from England to depart the coast, his body being worn out in his 13 years' service in India, and 250 land per annum having fallen to him in England by his father's death; and indeed he had not undertaken that fatal coast employment, but by the urgent persuasion of the late Presidents Muschamp and Hoare, hoping to bring that once famous place to its former station; which intentions failed, partly by the great famine of the country, and partly by Willoughby's stratagems …"|
p422 (summary of letter from Persia, 26 Jun 1633): ... "Silk has been scarce and dear here almost these three years by reason of the extraordinary mortality of the worms, caused by extraordinary drought throughout the country, and had it not this year been blessed with rains, this country had been little inferior to that of India."
p467 (summary of letter from Persia, 30 Sep 1633): "Capt. Slade writes that the Swan arrived at Masulipatam 20th June with a good cargazoon, but finding that famine and pestilence had so ranged all those parts that there were not any goods to be had, they were fain to proceed for Bengala, where they had better hopes."
|Balkrishna Govind Gokhale, "Surat in the Seventeenth Century" (1979)|
|p60 (the career of of Mir Musa, twice governor of Surat): "The Governor was carrying on extensive commercial activities in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere and he had also tried to get the famous Virji Vora interested in some kind of a business partnership. During 1632-1634 he is reported to have set up a virtual monopoly over trade in wheat, lead, and indigo. In February 1632, it is reported, the Governor, in an unholy alliance with some other leading merchants, cornered the supply of wheat, selling it at Rs. 4 per 40 seers when the normal price was 50% less. It should be remembered that this was a time of scarcity after the earlier year's famine which indicates his rather amoral nature." ..."|
|Sir T.W. Haig et al. "The Cambridge Shorter History of India" (vol. 2, 1935)|
|p401 [Deccan]: "Mahabat Khan, son of the old Khankhanan, was appointed governor of the imperial province, and early in 1633 appeared before Daulatabad, the siege of which had already been opened by Sayyid Khanjahan, who had received the title formerly held by Pir Lodi. The fortress was held by Fath Khan, who having put to death the roi fainéant, Murtaza, had raised to the throne his younger son, Husain III, and endured a siege of four months, though unable to obtain supplies from the famine-stricken land around it."|
|T. Raychaudhuri & I. Habib (eds.) "The Cambridge Economic History of India" (vol. 1, 1982)|
|p197: "Perhaps the most important economic background for the rise of the Marathas was the decay of agriculture caused by the incessant fighting between the Mughals and Nizamshahi and Adilshahi dynasties, as well as the great famines of 1630-2. Many peasants affected by such calamities seem to have flowed into Shivaji's territory, and Shivaji seems to have treated his people with leniency on the one hand, and recklessly drained the wealth from foreign territories through periodic expeditions called mulkgiri on the other."|